Friday, April 16, 2010

Becuase You Are Eight

Because you are Eight by TobinJohnston

Because You Are Eight

It is Saturday and the mother fucker is hot
but you don’t say that, because
are eight
and words are mysteries still
and you are still suspicious and enthralled by their secret power
and beside was if your mom overheard you
what if your tattletale sister found out

‘cause you know at the sagacious age of eight that you can flick
red stop lights green
by quietly saying under your breath

(Remember: This knowledge, and the burden of the responsibility it brought, was too great for shoulders so young and on one Sunday before church you guiltily wished your power away)

But today, this day is a hot, impatient Saturday
no school for two days
while the sun burns down this match stick city
and the streets sizzle like an oiled skillet, tar-baked, rubber-burned
the murder rate doubles, on a day like this, faster than a hopscotch beat
the seat-leather burns your young thighs and sticks to the skin on your arms
your dad’s car has no AC and the window don’t roll down
remember again how light dances through the thin translucent skin of neon water-balloons
I can’t believe you ever forgot that; it was only a summer ago
don’t tell me you forgot how fast ice cream melts, faster than you can run home
and you can run home pretty fast

Your mother’s suggestion to go outside is a death sentence
‘cause you in Los Angeles now, son
where the red ants are big and fat
and the black kids ask why your skin is so fucking white
and your best friends Hugo and Valetino think
its funny when you try and fight them
because they
are the descendants of the Mayan kings
are round, and sweaty and have already at the ages of eleven
and twelve
full adult mustaches
and you are eight

(Remember: Hugo’s mother was without papers. When she was rear-ended, Hugo’s dad said he was driving and they moved away after that. He was your first best friend)

But that Saturday was a hot worth remembering in a summer heat wave
painting faces sticky and glossy
turning the black boys blacker
sweatin’ the shit out the brown boys
and the wedos- go pink
earn for you the name lobster
even though no one you know had ever even seen a real lobster

Your mom has mercy—Finally!
she takes you and snitch of a sister to the pool
the water is warm, the air a touch warmer
you come up for breath
into a world composed entirely of laugher and splashing
your white skin swims with the black and brown
mother says she could pick you out of the pool even with her eyes shut
your eyes are shut too peekers are cheaters
and your friends can tell, so you keep them tight
you want to play by the rules



Fish out of water?

From the call and response
from the choir and chatter
you pick out a single voice
Su nombre es Maria
her name is Maria
of course, it is
they are all named Maria
how can this one be different
but it is
her voice admits it
her eyes speak of the secrets you don’t understand yet
of the words you don’t yet know
you couldn’t describe it even if you wanted to
you are just eight years old

With tightly closed eight years old eyes now
fingers unsighted and un-aimed
extending into the water
two hands with palms outstretched and searching
for that voice, for hers
you hear it as if it is the only one spoken
and move toward it
your adolescent body struggling blindly against the viscous water of that summer afternoon

the sun can’t
shine forever
cool shadows
pool and run together

(Remember: you heard you mom’s call to get out but kept to the bottom, hoping you could hold your breath forever, hoping she’ll somehow forget and leave you there to walk the seven big city blocks home. She’s crossing her arms now and using your middle name like a pull of a leash, so you get out)

Your eyes are cloudy from the pool water
your feet are raw from the concrete
your feet are cool on the tile
you shower off
you towel off
walk to the car passed the chain link fence
separating you and them
and she is there still
you hear her voice
but not daring to look back
but not daring to look
but not daring to

Afraid she is not watching
just as afraid if she is
you count the crack in the pavement
if the number is even she will see you walk by and wave
if the number is odd you will never see her again
and you look. . .

On the way home
in the front seat
it’s your mom’s car so you can roll down the window and you do
putting your arm out into the tepid wind
you feel the warm remembering of sun on your face
you will be called names tomorrow but you don’t care today
The smell of chlorine perfumes your skin
you shut your eyes
It is a pink and yellow world
you think of her and recall her voice
you don’t know why
you don’t know how come
you are so young
only eight

once home
you walk up stairs
to your room as your mother begins dinner
you turn the radio on
it is still light out even though it is seven-fifteen
and still hot
and the radio begins to sing
into the held-breath stillness of your room
it suggests mysteries
names longing
reveals to you the true meaning of words
the radio sings

Ooh boy, I love you so
Never, ever, ever gonna let you go
Once I get my hands on you

Ooh boy, I love you so
Never, ever, ever gonna let you go
I hope you feel the same way too

(Remember that for a moment, even though you didn’t notice, you were no longer

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